On Saturday afternoon, after nearly three days of being holed up in the apartment with a nasty turn-of-the-season cold, I gratefully headed out the door and toward the downtown 6 train to meet my dear friend Anica for lunch at the newly opened Peels, a southern-inspired diner and takeout joint on the Bowery.
First of all, let's talk about the coffee. I grabbed a cup on the way to our seats, and I almost plotzed with joy when I tasted it. Peels brews Stumptown, one of my more favorite producers, and the brew they'd chosen on Saturday was insanely good. Rich, strong, nutty and a little earthy - but not at all bitter, despite being piping hot. I think I'm in love. Seriously; I'd marry someone just to get that kind of coffee brought to me in bed every morning. (Okay, I'm exaggerating, but this is the kind of coffee that invites hyperbole.)
Naturally, once my coffee had been enjoyed, it was time for a cocktail. I chose the Shaddock's Fizz, a delightful tall glass filled with Aperol, Saint-Germain, grapefruit juice and champagne. It was lip-smackingly good, and bracingly tart. Perfect for a lunchtime tipple.
Anica, that naughty girl, ordered herself a whiskey chocolate milkshake, which arrived in an adorable miniature milk bottle. She loved the flavor, and said the whiskey came through loud and clear, but that the texture of the shake was a bit uneven, and even icy in places. A rare misstep in a meal full of hits, it has to be said.
Next up, our savories. We each ordered a biscuit - me with jam, Anica with honey butter and eggs. (Eggs on the side, you see.) The biscuits are delicious, but they're more buttery than flaky, and I think they really need clotted cream and sweet-tart jam to set them off; the gingery jam on offer just didn't do the trick.
My fried chicken sandwich, though, was incredible. A slightly pounded chicken thigh was lightly coated in flour and fried to a dark, perfect crisp. The sandwich itself? Nothing fancy - a potato roll, shredded iceberg, and tangy honey mustard sauce. Pure, simple perfection.
Last, but not least, dessert! Anica ordered the homemade caramel ice cream, which was very, very tasty. The caramel flavor was deep and smoky, and the ice cream was creamy - no hint of the iciness that plagued Anica's milkshake. (Yes. Anica had two ice cream-based items at our lunch. Are you at all surprised that we are friends?)
We'd spotted homemade graham crackers in the take-out dessert display on our way in, and so I couldn't resist ordering the s'mores. They were pretty dang good - the homemade crackers were slightly chewier and far spicier than the commercial variety, and the fresh marshmallow was satisfyingly pillowy. The chocolate was dark and just a little bitter, the way I like it, and the better to contrast with the marshmallow. The only issue? It was cold! This is not a hot, melty s'more, and that, my friends, is a shame.
That said, I'm already planning my return trip, and I know what I'm ordering: shrimp with grits and bacon, and the sundae (topped with peanuts and pretzel bits) for dessert. Try and stop me, folks. I dare you.
325 Bowery (at 2nd Street)
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